Given the enduring consistency with which Lee Child delivers sophisticated, gripping novels, you’d think he reads crime fiction and nothing else. Somehow, though, the British author, best known for his Jack Reacher thriller series, finds time for books he groups in the “random” category: “I grew up reading, before the Internet, before book-club culture, before any kind of recommendation network, and I became addicted to random finds—books I had never heard of, fields I had never thought about, avenues I had never explored,” says Child, whose new Jack Reacher novel, Blue Moon, is out now from Delacorte. This addiction has not gone away, and today Child allots about a third of his reading for random books. “True randomness is hard for the human mind to achieve,” he adds, “so lately I have enlisted my wife to bring me finds that are random to her, and thus doubly random to me.” Here, four of her latest successes.

Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee

A 4.6-billion-year geological history of the landmass now called the United States, beautifully written, always engaging, profoundly educational, and overwhelmingly humbling, in that our brief spark of existence really is nothing, compared to what came before and will come after.